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US urging Americans to leave Afghanistan due to sharp COVID-19 rise

US urging Americans to leave Afghanistan due to sharp COVID-19 rise
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The U.S. called on Americans to evacuate Afghanistan “as soon as possible” as the country faces a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a health alert Thursday to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan, warning of the COVID-19 surge and overwhelmed hospitals. 

In its statement, the embassy said hospitals in the country are experiencing shortages of supplies, oxygen and beds for all patients. U.S. citizens seeking hospital care have reportedly been denied admittance. 

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The alert encourages Americans to make plans to leave without U.S. government assistance, check with airlines to figure out delays or cancellations and to continue wearing masks and social distancing. The embassy notes that commercial flights from Hamid Karzai International Airport are still available. 

“Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited,” the alert reads. 

Last month, the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention published their travel alert, which requests Americans get fully vaccinated before going to Afghanistan. But it also warns that “even fully vaccinated travelers may be at risk for getting and spreading COVID-19 variants and should avoid all travel to Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan is enduring a rapid uptick in COVID-19 cases and deaths since mid-May, reaching a pandemic-high for the seven-day average of 897 cases on Wednesday, according to Our World in Data.  

The country has documented a seven-day average of almost 22 fatalities a day, approaching the record 25 deaths seven-day average in July 2020. 

At the same time, about 1.24 percent of people in Afghanistan have received at least one dose, and 0.37 percent are fully vaccinated. 

Afghanistan serves as a contrast to the U.S. which has seen a drop in cases as a majority of adults have received at least one dose.

The State Department also issued a level four travel advisory calling for Americans not to visit Afghanistan due to COVID-19, crime, terrorism, civil unrest, kidnapping and armed conflict.